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Google launches African tech incubator

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Google has lauched Umbono, a new technology incubator based in Cape Town and bringing together seed capital, Google mentorship, angel investors, local tech stars, entrepreneurs and business leaders to help selected start-up teams transform their ideas into companies.

“The South African tech scene is incredibly dynamic, particularly in Cape Town,” says Luke McKend, Google South Africa country manager. “We’ve seen some terrific start-ups come from this environment, companies like Yola, MXit and Twangoo.  Google’s latest investment with Umbono is a great extension of our overall strategy in the region to strengthen the web ecosystem.”
For six months, teams will enjoy free office space and bandwidth, in addition to the $25 000.00 to $50 000.00 in funding they’ll receive from Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google.
Throughout the programme, teams will not only benefit from local connections, but also from the extensive mentorship network of Google experts who can provide guidance on issues ranging from product design and commercialisation, to legal incorporation and valuation.
“Our mentor base is a key component of the Umbono programme,” says Johanna Kollar, Umbono programme manager. “Our experts – Googlers from around the world who are volunteering their time – are passionate about technology in Africa and will be able to help teams with the challenges they face, whether it be on the product, business or technical front.”
Community integration is essential to successful incubator programmes, and Google is collaborating with the Silicon Cape Initiative and the Bandwidth Barn.  These local organisations will ensure that Umbono’s teams are well positioned to succeed.
“Google’s Umbono programme is a welcome addition to Cape Town’s tech scene – there’s a lot of talent and enthusiasm for technology here, and many just need that window of opportunity,” says Justin Spratt, board member for Silicon Cape.
The Umbono programme is open to all South African residents, and applications should be made online. The deadline for first round applicants is April 15, 2011, but the web site will continue to accept applications from interested candidates.